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International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 4, Issue 5, May 2014

ISSN 2250-3153

Assessing feeding habits of tadpoles of Leptobrachium


smithi (Matsui et al. 1999) during different development
stages: a qualitative and quantitative study from
Rosekandy Tea Estate, Cachar, Assam
Pammi Singh*, Mithra Dey* and S.N. Ramnujam**
*

Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Assam University, Silchar.


**
Department of Zoology, NEHU, Shillong, Meghalaya.

Abstract- Anuran tadpoles develop in water and depend on the


food available in the system for nourishment and energy
necessary for completion of their life cycle. Tadpoles of
Leptobrachium smithi were collected from permanent running
water systems from Rosekandy Tea estate in Cachar district,
Assam. Taxonomic identification of the tadpoles was done by
rearing them to adult stage under laboratory condition. Physicochemical variables of water from where the tadpoles are
collected were also analyzed. Tadpoles of different
developmental stages 25-27, 28-30 and 31-40 (Gosner,1960)
were selected for study. A qualitative analysis of food consumed
showed that diet is basically composed of algae and detritus. A
total of 30 genera belonging to five classes i.e.
Bacillariophyceae,
Chlorophyceae,
Cyanophyceae,
Euglenophyceae and Desmideaceae were recorded. The percent
abundance and percent frequency of occurrences of different
food items show that significant difference exists between the
three different developmental stages but food items were almost
similar in the different stages. Bacillariophyceae, Chlorophyceae
and Euglenophyceae were important food in all the stages. The
diet preference and choice of algae as food indicates that the
conservation of habitat in terms of algal diversity is essential for
the survival and completion of life cycle of the tadpoles and for
successful survival of the anurans.
Index Terms- Tadpoles, Leptobrachium smithi, feeding habit,
algae, conservation

microhabitats of tadpoles suggested by [9]. Diet is especially


important in tadpoles because they complete their life cycle in
short-lived aquatic environments i.e. ephemeral ponds and
tadpoles need to consume food that will ensure their
metamorphosis prior to the drying up of the pond. Some tadpoles
rely on carnivory to reach their metamorphic state. Many
tadpoles are grazers, feeding from the substrates in aquatic
systems [4]. Tadpoles in general, should be considered
opportunistic omnivores or detritivores [3]. Literature on natural
food of tadpoles is inadequate, whereas there is fairly adequate
information on the diet of adult frogs. In India feeding habit of
anuran tadpoles have been explored by several workers [10-14]
although some have been conducted under laboratory condition.
Feeding habit of tadpoles of five anuran species: Duttaphrynus
melanostictus, Microhyla ornata, Fejarvarya limnocharis,
Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis and Sylvirana leptoglossa from Barak
Valley have been studied [15]. Study on food of Rana alticola
tadpoles was earlier done in different development stages [16] in
Meghalaya. They observed that in the early part of life history,
tadpoles are herbivorous which later changes to carnivorous in
the post metamorphic stages. In North-East India, relatively few
studies have been conducted on food habit of tadpoles [15,1721]. The present study was carried out to determine the feeding
habit of Leptobrachium smithi tadpoles at different
developmental stages from Rosekandy Tea Estate of Cachar
district.

II.
I. INTRODUCTION

eeding constitutes an important aspect of the biology of


tadpoles. Tadpoles are essential part of the aquatic ecosystem
and depend on resources available for successful completion of
their life cycle. They are primarily herbivores consuming wide
variety of algal taxa as well as detritus, viruses, bacteria, protists,
plant fragment, pollen grains, various small invertebrates like
crustaceans and also exhibit cannibalism eating other tadpoles [13]. Anuran larvae are mostly grazers feeding from substrates in
aquatic systems [4] or suspension feeders [5, 6] whereas adult
anurans are largely carnivorous [7] and insectivorous, only a few
species being large enough to engulf small vertebrate prey [8].
Differences in the internal oral characteristics may be related to
preferences of different size of food particles ingested in the

MATERIALS AND METHODS

The present study was carried out in Rosekandy Tea Estate,


located 25 kms away from Silchar in Barak Valley, South
Assam. Barak valley is situated between 24027 N and 25o08 N
latitudes and 92000 E and 95o15 E longitudes. The region
abounds in wetlands, streams, pools, marshes, ponds etc. of
various shapes and sizes. The natural vegetation is of moist
evergreen and semi- evergreen type. The climate of the zone is
subtropical, warm and humid. The average rainfall of the zone is
2666 mm. The maximum temperature ranges from 27.12C35.23C and the minimum temperature ranges between 12.4C 25.53C. The valley has several tea estates and tea plantation and
cultivation of paddy are the major economic activities Tadpoles
of Leptobrachium smithi were collected from their natural habitat
during May 2012- April 2013 by hand net (mesh size 1 mm) and
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International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 4, Issue 5, May 2014
ISSN 2250-3153

preserved in 10% formaldehyde solution immediately after


collection in order to avoid complete digestion of contents in the
digestive tract. Tadpoles of different developmental stages were
separated in laboratory and stage wise three groups were made;
25-27, 28-30 and 31-40 for the study according to Gosner [22].
The gut of each individual was dissected; the contents were
transferred to a watch glass and mixed with 0.5 ml of water. One
drop of sample was placed on a glass slide, covered by a cover
slip and examined under Olympus CX41 trinocular microscope
for identification of the food items. 10 sub samples were
examined for each tadpole. Food items were identified following
standard literature [23, 24]. Measurement of total body length,
head length and total gut length of each tadpole were made with
the help of vernier caliper. The number of each item was counted
and expressed in terms of percent abundance and percent
frequency of occurrence. This method is a modification of
similar methods used in aquatic insects [25, 26] and used in
tadpoles [15]. Degree of dominance of food items was
calculated by Berger-Parker Diversity Index as follows:
D = Nmax / N where, N is the total number of individuals and
Nmax is the no. of individuals of the most abundant species. The
reciprocal form of the measure was used so that the index
increases with increasing food diversity [27].
Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index (H') was used for
estimating niche breadth.
H' = - pi ln pi
where, pi represents the proportional
abundance of the ith resource state [28].
The food items were identified upto the level of genus. The
physico-chemical variables of water from where the tadpoles are
collected was also analyzed using standard methods of APHA
[29] and Trivedy & Goel [30].

III.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Leptobrachium smithi tadpoles are light brown in colour,


small and irregular black spots are present on the dorsal surface
of the body and lateral side of the tail but spots are not present on
the ventral surface of the head and body. Body is oval in shape,
eyes are dorsally present, naris are nearer to the snout then orbit,
mouth is ventral in position, spiracle sinistral, vent tube is dextral

in position opening at edge of ventral fin, intestinal coils are


clearly visible, tail musculature is creamish white in colour,
dorsal fin is more concave then ventral fin. The dental formula
(LTRF) in tadpoles of stage 31 is 6(4)/5(4) given according to
McDiarmid and Altig [4]. In anterior labium six tooth rows are
present in which medial gap is present in third to sixth anterior
tooth rows. In posterior labium also six tooth rows are present
but medial gap is present in one to fifth tooth rows; marginal
papilla is present but submarginal papilla is absent, mouth is Ushaped. Left side of oral apparatus is not emarginate while right
side is emarginated.
The physico-chemical variables of the site from where the
tadpoles are collected shows Dissolved O2 ranged between 1.1 to
6.51 mg/l, Free CO2 conc. ranged between 6.6 mg/l to 26.4 mg/l,
Total Alkalinity ranged between 30 mg/l to 50 mg/l, pH varied
between 6.03 to 7.25 and conductivity ranged between 0.028
S/cm to 0.061 S/cm. Air temp. ranged between 26.5 c to 29.2
c and water temp. ranged between 26 to 27.5 C from the month
of May 2012 to April 2013. Tadpoles were collected from a slow
flowing stream running between the tea plantations and had silty
bottom with small gravels and pebbles. The size of the pool from
where the tadpoles were collected was 2 ft by 3ft and
approximate depth was about 1.5 to 2 ft. The bottom was muddy
and had silt deposition, it was connected to the stream by a
narrow drain. Feeding habit of Leptobrachium smithi has been
studied by Sengupta et al [31] from lower Basistha River, North
east India where the tadpoles were collected from pools and
lower reaches of the river and water quality was slightly acidic.
The water in the present study area was also slightly acidic.
The intestinal tract of all the tadpoles of different
developmental stages of Leptobrachium smithi contained food.
Algae appeared in all the microscopical fields examined; all the
tadpoles of Leptobrachium smithi prefer Bacillariophyceae,
Chlorophyceae,
Cyanophyceae,
Euglenophyceae
and
Desmideaceae group. A total of 30 genera of Bacillariophyceae,
Chlorophyceae,
Cyanophyceae,
Euglenophyceae
and
Desmideaceae were identified. The relative percent abundances
of the food items in the gut of Leptobrachium smithi tadpoles of
different development stages (N=10) is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Percent abundance of food items in the gut of Leptobrachium smithi tadpoles of different development stages (N=10).
Food Items

(Gosner stage) 25-27

28-30

31-40

Bacillariophyceae

57.73

59.41

55.64

Pinnularia sp.

25

17.82

22.08

Navicula sp.

19.7

15.68

15.52

Cymbella sp.

1.92

6.28

3.29

Achanthes sp.

0.65

3.82

2.73

Gomphonema sp.

9.23

8.92

8.38

Eunotia sp.

2.4

1.27

Fragillaria sp.

0.52

0.49

0.01

Tabellaria sp.

0.47

0.63

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International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 4, Issue 5, May 2014
ISSN 2250-3153

Cocconeis sp.

1.66

Amphipleura sp.

1.67

1.21

Pleurosigma sp.

0.71

0.2

0.51

Chlorophyceae

7.09

14.36

9.01

Cosmarium sp.

0.75

1.63

0.15

Closterium sp.

2.65

2.04

4.27

Scenedesmus sp.

2.03

0.29

Staurastrum sp.

0.46

0.61

Oedogonium sp.

0.31

Spirogyra sp.

0.49

1.56

0.33

Euastrum sp.

1.71

0.34

Tetraspora sp.

0.13

Volvox sp.

3.2

4.17

Mougeotia sp.

Cyanophyceae

9.22

11.78

17.69

Oscillatoria sp.

1.68

3.1

7.09

Spirulina sp.

1.98

5.57

6.61

Nodularia sp.

2.01

0.89

2.01

Nostoc sp.

3.55

2.22

1.98

Euglenophyceae

8.82

4.55

4.27

Phacus sp.

4.43

1.51

2.15

Euglena sp.

4.39

3.04

3.02

Desmideaceae

0.46

0.40

0.55

Desmids sp.

0.18

Characium sp.

0.2

Spondylosium sp.

0.46

0.02

0.55

Spores

8.22

4.53

5.63

Detritus

8.27

4.84

6.21

Bacillariophyceae was highest in all the three stages followed


by Chlorophyceae, Cyanophyceae and Euglenophyceae were
important food in all the stages. However, Desmidaceae were not
present equally in all the stages. Spores and detritus were present
in all the stages but relatively more in stage 25-27. Pinnularia sp.
and Navicula sp. are preferred mostly by all the tadpoles in all
the stages. The percent abundance and percent frequency of
occurrences of different food items shows that significant
difference exists among the three different groups as revealed by
the one way Anova test (Table 2). As detritus were found in the
gut of all the stages of tadpoles they seem to feed from benthic
habitat. The food items were almost similar in all the stages.
However, zooplanktons were not detected in the gut of
Leptobrachium smithi tadpoles in the present study, although
rotifers, protozoans & crustaceans have been reported in
Leptobrachium smithi [31]. Presence of detritus in the gut shows
that detritus probably supply sufficient nutrition and is preferred
as food. Detritus has also been found in guts of E cyanoplyctis as
a major food item [31] and in guts of Duttaphrynus

2.89
0.45

melanostictus, Microhyla ornata, Fejarvarya limnocharis, and


Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis [15] .
Table 2: Significance of differences in percent abundance,
percent frequency of occurrence among different food items
in three different stages, as revealed by one-way Anova
(P<0.05). Significant differences indicated by an asterisk (*)
Stages
25-27

28-30

31-40

Parameters
% abundance
%Frequency
occurrence
% abundance
%Frequency
occurrence
% abundance
%Frequency
occurrence

of

F value
*71.566,63
*8.406,63

of

*147.156,63
*9.946,63

of

*122.196,63
*15.516,63

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International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 4, Issue 5, May 2014
ISSN 2250-3153

Figure 1. Percent relative abundance of food items in the gut of three different stages.

Figure 2. Percent frequency of occurrence of food items in the gut of three different stages.
Based on the dietary diversity, Berger-Parker index and
Shannon-Weiner index was calculated and is presented in Table
3. The Berger-Parker Diversity Index (1/d= reciprocal form)
showed that the dominance of food items was highest in stage

28-30, followed by 31-40 and 25-27, whereas the ShannonWeiner Diversity Index (H') indicated that high diversity of food
items were present in stage 28-30.

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International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 4, Issue 5, May 2014
ISSN 2250-3153

Table 3. Estimate of Berger-Parker diversity index (1/d=reciprocal form) and Shannon-Weiner diversity index (H') in the
different stages of the tadpoles.

Stages

1/d

25-27

2.189

28-30

5.6

2.819

31-40

4.5

The present study shows that tadpoles of Leptobrachium


smithi feed largely on algae without any discrimination in all the
stages and can be marked as herbivores, detritus was also an
important choice.. This is similar to the findings of Sengupta
etal. [31]. Further study on the presence of different food items ie
algal items, rotifers, protozoans, crustaceans etc in the aquatic
system the tadpoles inhabited is necessary to comment on
selectivity. Choice of food may also depend on the quality of
microhabitat the tadpoles selected.

IV. CONCLUSION
Tadpoles of Leptobrachium smithi were found to be benthic
dwellers and found in both slow flowing lotic system and
temporary pools connected to the lotic system by a small drain.
Tadpoles may exhibit some selectivity in algal feeding and also
exhibit special habitat separation, due to choice of different
microhabitat [15]. All the tadpoles studied were largely
herbivorous in food habits containing a variety of algal
components as their major food item. Bacillariophyceae was the
dominant group in all the stages. Similar findings have been
reported by Sengupta et al [31]. Six anuran tadpole species were
studied [32] and found that all the tadpoles were largely
herbivorous and ingested 36 genera of algae. Feeding habit of
Duttaphrynus (Bufo) melanostictus tadpoles was studied [33] and
they reported that phytoplanktons constituted 96.1% of the food
items. Feeding habit of Clinotarsus alticola tadpoles was studied
[21] and it was reported that Bacillariophyceae was significantly
more abundant than all other food items in four different stages.
Analysis of food items of tadpoles is important as it is the energy
source for the developing tadpoles and the selection of food by
Leptobrachium smithi clearly shows they are herbivoredetritivores. There is overlapping in selection of food items
among the stages studied. Literature on natural food of tadpoles
is less, whereas there is fairly adequate information on the diet of
adult frogs. To obtain a complete knowledge of the life histories
and habits of each species it is necessary to study the relationship
between the available food and larval growth rate. Knowledge of
the food of tadpoles of various species can be of used in rearing
the species with economical and medicinal values under
laboratory conditions [19]. Many adult anuran species are
preferred as food and further investigation may also confirm their
medicinal value. Such species can be cultured successfully and
knowledge of their food preference is essential. As the tadpoles
also feed on detritus it is necessary to study the nutrient status of
detritus. Food selection in tadpoles depends on the food

2.41
availability and microhabitat use and needs to be analyzed for
their successful survival. Considering the decline of anurans
reported worldwide and rapid degradation of habitats observed it
is essential to know their feeding habits, microhabitat selection
and impact of anthropogenic activities on the condition of the
breeding grounds and design appropriate conservation measures
for their successful survival..

ACKNOWLEDGMENT
First and second authors express their gratitude to UGC, New
Delhi for providing financial support. The authors are also
grateful to the Department of Ecology and Environmental
Science, Assam University, Silchar where the work was carried
out.

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AUTHORS
First Author Pammi Singh (Research Scholar), Department of
Ecology and Environmental Science, Assam University, Silchar.
Second Author Dr. Mithra Dey, Associate professor,
Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Assam
University, Silchar.
Third Author S.N. Ramnujam, Professor, Department of
Zoology, NEHU, Shillong, Meghalaya.
Correspondence Author Dr. Mithra Dey, Associate professor,
Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Assam
University, Silchar, Email: mithradey@gmail.com
(09435073238)

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